Live Global Coronavirus News: Anthony Fauci to Testify


U.S. health officials are to warn lawmakers of the potential for a ‘tremendous burden’ on hospitals.

Four of the top health officials leading the Trump administration’s virus response will testify before a key House committee on Tuesday about efforts to test for, trace and treat the coronavirus, the first time they will appear together in more than a month to brief Congress on the pandemic.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will speak and field questions in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They are likely to be asked about whether they agree with President Trump, who last week claimed in an interview with Fox News that the virus would simply “fade away.”

The doctors will also probably be grilled on the federal government’s progress in developing a vaccine and about the administration’s handling of sharp upticks of the virus around the country. Mr. Trump said at a campaign rally on Saturday in Tulsa, Okla., that he had asked “my people” to “slow the testing down” because increased screening was revealing more infections, making the country look bad.

In a prepared statement provided to the committee ahead of the hearing, the C.D.C. wrote that “Covid-19 activity will likely continue for some time,” potentially careening into flu season and straining hospitals already nearing capacity.

“This could place a tremendous burden on the health care system related to bed occupancy, laboratory testing needs, personal protective equipment and health care worker safety,” the agency wrote.

The New York Times will provide live video of the hearing, which is to begin at 11 a.m. Eastern. Adm. Brett P. Giroir, once the administration’s testing “czar,” and Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, are also scheduled to appear.

Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield and Admiral Giroir have implored states to test widely for the virus, which allows local health departments and contact tracers to identify new cases quickly and work to stem outbreaks in badly affected areas. In some states with recent significant rises in cases, residents have reported bottlenecks at screening sites, and hospital systems have said that they do not have enough machines to run tests.

The hearing comes as the United States accounted for 20 percent of all the new infections worldwide on Sunday, according to New York Times data.

In one sign of the Trump administration’s eagerness to move on, Admiral Giroir quietly told his colleagues this month that he was returning to his old job as assistant secretary of health to focus on a wide range of public health matters, including childhood vaccination, the opioid epidemic and AIDS.

All four witnesses are part of the coronavirus task force, a dwindling panel of health officials that meets twice a week in the White House Situation Room, one of the few remaining visible elements of the administration’s coronavirus response efforts.

Three months after reluctantly and belatedly imposing a lockdown on Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that he would lift many restrictions — most significantly, cutting the required social distance between people in half, to one meter, or about three feet.

Declaring that “our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end,” Mr. Johnson cleared the way for the reopening of pubs, restaurants, hotels and museums in England on July 4, which will bring the country closer in line with Germany, Italy and other European countries.

But scientists, including some who advise the government, warned that reducing the required social distance would substantially raise the risk of spreading the coronavirus in a country that is still reporting nearly 1,000 new infections a day.

Mr. Johnson is yielding to intense pressure, even from members of his own Conservative Party, to restart the British economy and return society to a semblance of normalcy. The government’s scientific advisers signed off on the change, though not without reservations and anguished debate.

In a study released this month, the government’s scientific advisory group, known as SAGE, estimated that reducing the so-called two-meter rule to one meter could increase the rate of transmission anywhere from two to 10 times.

Those risks would be mitigated, it said, if people wore face coverings and avoided prolonged face-to-face contact. Transmission is far less likely outdoors, which is why pubs and restaurants will be required to install plastic screens, provide adequate ventilation and collect contact information from customers. Face coverings are already mandatory on public transportation.

The University of Michigan will withdraw from hosting a presidential debate in October, two people familiar with the school’s plans said on Monday.

The university is pulling out of hosting the second presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 15, because of concerns about bringing hordes of national and international media and campaign officials to the Ann Arbor campus amid the coronavirus pandemic, the people said.

The Michigan gathering will be moved to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, which hosted the first debates of the 2020 Democratic primary season last summer, according to two people directly familiar with the debate planning.

The move is expected to be formally announced on Tuesday. The Detroit Free Press first reported that Michigan would withdraw from hosting the debate.

The debate is set to become the second major presidential campaign event to move to Florida after officials elsewhere raised concerns about large gatherings during the pandemic.

After officials in North Carolina, including Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, sought assurances that delegates would adhere to social distancing at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, the Trump campaign announced that Mr. Trump would instead accept the G.O.P. nomination in Jacksonville, Fla.

In other news from around the United States:

  • President Trump temporarily suspended work visas and barred more than half a million foreigners from coming to work in the United States, part of a broad effort by the administration to significantly limit entry into the country during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

  • After months of lockdown in which outbreaks were often centered on nursing homes, prisons and meatpacking plants, new clusters have been found in bars, churches and other places where people gather. New known virus cases were on the rise in 23 states on Monday as the outlook worsened across much of the nation’s South and West.

  • Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said on Monday that the virus was spreading in the state at “an unacceptable rate” and that tougher restrictions could be necessary, although he did not specify what those measures would be. “Closing down Texas again will always be the last option,” he said.

  • Black people have been hospitalized for Covid-19 four times more than white people, new data released on Monday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found. The data reinforced the many public accounts of the disparities in access to health care and treatment outcomes faced by African-Americans during the pandemic.

  • A moratorium on evictions that New York State imposed during the pandemic expired over the weekend, raising fears that tens of thousands of residents would be called into housing courts, which reopened on Monday.

  • Kentucky, New York and Virginia are holding primary elections on Tuesday. The number of voters casting absentee ballots has risen sharply because of the pandemic, and the results of key races may not be known on Tuesday night as a result. Here’s what to watch for.

  • The White House began easing restrictions on Monday, the same day that the District of Columbia allowed churches, gyms, restaurants and “nonessential” stores to reopen with limited capacity.

  • After months of failed negotiations, Major League Baseball announced that it would impose a 2020 schedule and that it wanted players to report to their home ballparks by July 1 for training camp. If they do — and if the union signs off on health protocols — the schedule would be for 60 games, most likely starting July 24.

Global roundup

A German district tightens its lockdown after an outbreak at a slaughterhouse.

Germany’s biggest pork processing plant, which is owned by the Tönnies company and is in the northwest of the country, has registered 1,550 new coronavirus infections since early last week, leading to the biggest regional outbreak since the nation reopened in May.

On Tuesday, Armin Laschet, the state governor of North Rhein-Westphalia, announced a temporary lockdown of Gütersloh, the district that includes the plant.

Officials had already closed schools and day care centers in the district of roughly 370,000 people. But Mr. Laschet’s emergency plans will focus on enforcing quarantine for the plant’s 7,000 workers as well as community members who are infected.

He also announced that health officials would test residents of nursing homes. Bars, gyms and cultural events — which had only recently reopened — are closed again until at least June 30.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Laschet characterized the lockdown as a precautionary move and promised to ease the measures as soon as the authorities were sure that the illness would not spread significantly from the plant.

The outbreak has caused Germany’s reproduction number to rise significantly, to a value of 2.9 on Sunday. That means that one person with the disease is expected to infect, on average, 2.9 others. The number had been below one just a few days before.

Since then, the number of daily new infections has fallen. On Monday, the national health authority registered 503 cases across the country.

In other news from around the world:

  • Saudi Arabia said only “very limited numbers” of Muslims could perform the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, this year, with only Saudis and foreign nationals already in the kingdom allowed to take part. The hajj, the largest annual rite in Islam, is scheduled to take place next month.

  • A 72-year-old man in Hong Kong died from the virus on Tuesday, officials said, raising the city’s death toll to six. Hong Kong has recorded 1,161 confirmed cases. The authorities also confirmed 30 imported infections on Monday — the highest daily increase in more than two months — and another 16 imported cases on Tuesday.

  • Officials in Japan, which lifted its emergency declaration in late May, announced on Tuesday a series of reopenings, including Tokyo Disneyland on July 1. The country’s professional baseball league, which resumed play last week without fans in attendance, plans to allow spectators starting next month.

  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore announced that the city-state would hold the first elections in Southeast Asia since the pandemic began.

  • The local authorities in Melbourne, Australia, have recommended that people in six neighborhoods remain at home after a growth in cases in those communities. Daniel Andrews, the premier of the state of Victoria, blamed the surge — 17 new cases reported on Monday — in part on people failing to self-isolate after being directed to do so. “If people don’t do the right thing, it is almost certain they will give the virus to other people,” he said.

Sweden’s lax approach to the outbreak alarms its neighbors.

Swedish officials, including the architect of the country’s measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Anders Tegnell, say Swedes have been stigmatized by an international campaign to prove Sweden was wrong and warn their neighbors that they are going to be much more vulnerable if a second wave of the virus hits in the fall.

“We are really confident that our immunity is higher than any other Nordic country’s,” Mr. Tegnell said during a news conference last week. He added that while Sweden was not striving for so-called herd immunity, the higher level of immunity “is contributing to lower numbers of patients needing hospitalization, as well as fewer deaths per day.”

Mr. Tegnell also said that infections in Sweden “had peaked,” and were now falling, a trend reflected in The Times’s figures.

Experts in the other Scandinavian countries say the higher immunity levels have not been proved through rigorous testing, and that such talk misses a major point.

“When you see 5,000 deaths in Sweden and 230 in Norway, it is quite incredible,” said Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway and the former director of the World Health Organization, during a digital lecture at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in May. “It will take a lot to even out this difference a year or two into the future.”

Some companies, like makers of thermal cameras that sense skin temperature, are rebranding their wares as fever-scanning products. Others are creating entirely new services.

And they have a captive market. To protect employees and reduce liability for virus outbreaks at work, companies are racing to comply with public health guidelines on issues like employee screening and social distancing. In the United States, the market for contact-tracing technologies for employers could soon be worth $4 billion annually, according to estimates from International Data Corporation, a market research firm.

But the preventive tools and pandemic workplace rules are so new — as is the emerging science on the virus — that it is too soon to tell how well, or if, they work.

“These are all untested theories and methods right now,” said Laura Becker, a research manager focusing on employee experience at I.D.C. “What is going to be the most effective component of all of these work force return strategies? We don’t know.”

When Manila was placed under lockdown in March, Father Eduardo Vasquez moved his daily Mass online. That kept him safe from the coronavirus but left some of his poorest parishioners — the ones without cellphones — beyond his reach.

So he set off to find them. In the city’s teeming slums, already reeling from President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody antidrug campaign, he celebrated Mass, served the Eucharist, and distributed food and face masks.

“Journalists, doctors, garbage collectors and undertakers were out doing their duties” during the lockdown, he said in the city of Caloocan, the district of Manila where he works. “It’s a big knock on the Catholic Church if we don’t.”

The Philippines has nearly 1,200 deaths from Covid-19 and more than 30,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, one of Southeast Asia’s highest tallies.

On many days, Father Vasquez, 47, tends to his churchyard garden, baptizes children, and attends to the dead at funeral parlors and crematories.

But when he dresses for work these days, his vestments are as protective as they are holy. His cassock has been replaced by a protective suit, his collar hidden behind an N-95 respirator mask.

All that identifies him as a priest is his stole, a scarf about two meters long, the perfect length to measure an acceptable social distance.

Reporting was contributed by Jes Aznar, Hannah Beech, Stephen Castle, Julie Creswell, Reid J. Epstein, Thomas Erdbrink, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Matthew Haag, Ben Hubbard, Mike Ives, Miriam Jordan, Annie Karni, Tyler Kepner, Mark Landler, Jonathan Martin, Sarah Mervosh, Christopher F. Schuetze, Michael D. Shear, Natasha Singer, Mitch Smith, Matt Stevens, Lucy Tompkins, Hisako Ueno, Noah Weiland and Elaine Yu.





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